View Map

Overview

In southern New Mexico, Carlsbad Caverns National Park is among the world's largest cave systems. It's also one of the most accessible. Since cowboy Jim White explored the main cave in the 1920s, the caverns have been visited by millions of people. The Big Room is the only developed cavern with a ceiling more than 200 feet high and its floor covering more than eight acres. Like the scale of the caverns, the limestone formations adorning the caverns are superlative: there are stalactites, stalagmites, draperies, soda straws, and formations in the shape of pearls, castles, and Christmas trees. Rangers lead tours of other caverns, including ...

In southern New Mexico, Carlsbad Caverns National Park is among the world's largest cave systems. It's also one of the most accessible. Since cowboy Jim White explored the main cave in the 1920s, the caverns have been visited by millions of people. The Big Room is the only developed cavern with a ceiling more than 200 feet high and its floor covering more than eight acres. Like the scale of the caverns, the limestone formations adorning the caverns are superlative: there are stalactites, stalagmites, draperies, soda straws, and formations in the shape of pearls, castles, and Christmas trees. Rangers lead tours of other caverns, including Lower Cave, King's Palace, and the Hall of the White Giant; experienced spelunkers can get a permit to explore other caverns on their own. The big event here from May to October is the nightly bat flight, when some 250,000 Mexican free-tailed bats take to the sky from the cave's Natural Entrance. On the surface, there are excellent hiking opportunities and a scenic 9.5-mile loop drive through Walnut Canyon. There are a few lodging options in White's City, but you'll find more variety and services in the city of Carlsbad, located approximately 30 miles northeast of the national park.

Aaron Anderson
About the Expert

Aaron Anderson is coauthor of Lonely Planet's Washington, D.C. City Guide, a contributor on western states to Lonely Planet USA, and he wrote the Austria chapters for Lonely Planet's Western Europe and Europe on a Shoestring.

view full overview

Aaron Anderson for Triporati

Compare Flight, Car Rental, and Hotel Rates

Note: A new window will open for each site you select.

Note: A new window will open for each site you select.

Note: A new window will open for each site you select.

Facts at a Glance

Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    September, when the weather is nice, the kids are back in the school, the bats are still flying, and the tour schedule is still heavy.